Tuesday, December 20, 2016

This Ain't Your Grandma's Cookie Day!!

So, you think you have been to a cookie making day in your time? Well, these Georgia people have some serious cookie day activities! Sheila has been telling me about cookie day almost since the first time I spoke with her (well, maybe not the first time) (okay, not even the fifth time, either) (you get the idea though, right?) and how much work it is to host the Family Cookie Day each year. And I thought to myself "yeah, yeah ... I've made cookies, big deal", but of course I didn't say that to her. I was properly sympathetic as all good boyfriends should be and promised to help her this year.

Sheila plotting the course of attack

As a means of explanation, lets start here:

Does your cookie making stash look like this? Of course it doesn't, don't even try to say it does. And that is hardly all of the stuff that Sheila pulled out in advance (yes, she pulled it out and put it on the counter ... our kitchen doesn't look like that normally). I asked why everything was on the counter and Sheila said it was easier than searching for it once the cookie making got started. I was thinking, "How in the world can you actually find ANYTHING with all of this stuff all over the place?"

On Cookie Day Eve, Sheila and I made the gooey cookies ... they were a new recipe that she wanted to try after our recent trip to Memphis and we made gingerbread gooey and carrot cake gooey cookies. Both excellent! We also laid out just about everything on Cookie Day Eve, including all of the cutters, SilPat sheets, pans, rollers, tongs, whatever we would need once the serious cookie making started. Sheila has a boat-load of cookie cutter shapes, I mean, really, a LOT of cookie cutters. She entertained herself making me guess what some of the shapes were and had quite a laugh at my Cookie Day novice skill ... "No, it's not a Santa sled, it's a squirrel collecting nuts shaped like presents ha, ha, ha" ... I felt quite the newbie.


Look at those faces, the concentration, the effort!! It isn't just about having fun all day, this isn't for the faint of heart! Cookie Day is serious business! These Georgia people know what they are doing! Now, let's look at the Jersey noob ....

Rolling gooey balls in my palms (I bet that's not the first time my brothers have caught me doing that!! But, hey, I have a lot of dirty secrets on those guys, too, if that's the way they want to play it, I can tell you stuff about them .... oops, sorry, got caught up in the moment ....) with a big stupid grin, clearly not serious about cookie day. Noob ....

The Cookie Day agenda results in several types of Christmas cookies. Here is a pic, excluding the gooey balls that I massaged (sorry):
 Almost all of the decoration was done by the kids, except for the dipping into warm melted chocolate. There are sugar cookies, peanut butter Ritz dipped in white and dark chocolate, Buckeyes (no, they aren't official since the peanut butter center isn't showing, but these keep better) in both white a dark, pretzels in both white and dark and of course, gingerbread. We also made 7 layer cookies, and when I asked what a 7 layer cookie was the Georgia-ites were almost hysterical with laughter at my lack of cookie knowledge

Now, all joking aside, it was a wonderful, fantastic experience! Family, friends, neighbors, all came over to partake in the annual Burns Family Cookie Day and I had a blast! And it was so much fun for the kids, just look at these faces:

It was a great day, Cookie Day 2016 and now that I have my feet wet I can really add to the day next year. Sheila and I hope your cookie days went great, as well!

BTW, here is an in-process Cookie Day 2016 pic with the "previously-mentioned-in-another-blog-post" dog door installed in the side of Sheila's house ... the dog door looks pretty darn good in this picture!

Yeah, baby!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Watch Out, Georgia, Jersey Guy Driving

Congratulations to me, I'm now officially a resident of the State of Georgia! To commemorate this auspicious occasion, I went to the DDS (Department of Driver Services) to get my drivers license switched from NJ to GA.

The DDS office I visited is on the edge of the abyss, teetering between civilization and "I-married-my-first-cousin" territory. When I got there, the parking lot was empty. Really, empty, as in no one was there at all empty. I thought the joint was closed, but the door was open and in I went.

There were 6 windows/stations, 4 of the State of Georgia's finest employees behind the counter yakking it up. One very nice (seriously, VERY nice) (they were all super nice) (it's like that everywhere down here) lady asked "how can we help you" and I explained I needed to switch an out of state license to a Georgia license. "Well Sir, welcome to Georgia, window 1, please"

Window1 serves two purposes in life; it contains the clipboards with the applications and it has the ticket # machine. I explained that I didn't need the application because I had filled it out on line to "Save A Step" as broadcast on the DDS website. "Well, Sir, good for you, take a clipboard for your application and I'll give you a number".

Number?  I was the only one there!  Number? Really?

But now we had an issue ... The number machine wouldn't print.  This caused quite a stir among the staff, with all four gathered around the machine. I was asked to have a seat while this catastrophe was dealt with. After several minutes and multiple attempts to print a number, the source of the angst was uncovered ... Out of paper. Phew, thank goodness we averted that tragedy! The nice lady gave me my number (B145) and asked me to take a seat.

Seat?  I'm still the only one there ...

After another few minutes an automated voice announcement stated "B143, Window 4". There was no B143, I'm still the only one there. The staff looked around expectantly at me, I said "B145" and held up my ticket.  The auto voice came on again, "B144, Window 4"

Seriously?  I was starting to look for the Candid Camera people as I held up my ticket and said "B145". The omnipotent auto voice came back on and said "B145, Window 4" ... For a brief moment I considered not acknowledging the DDS auto voice god just for the chuckles but quickly realized that these folks could be packing firearms, so up to Window 4 I went.

I gave a very nice young man (seriously, very nice) my clipboard, which he set aside (Why was I given that clipboard?). I gave him my supporting documents to prove I was who I said I was, and he gave me a required "vision test"  ... (Stevie Wonder could pass that vision test) ... then took my picture which resulted in an ominous looking likeness of me posing as a serial killer. Don't take my word for it, see for yourself ...

I departed with my newly minted DDS license in hand and another hearty "Welcome to Georgia" still ringing in my ears.  I'm not sure why, but as soon as I got in the car I immediately felt like pulling into the fast lane and doing 22 mph ...

Oh, I haven't told you? About Georgia drivers?

You have Massachusetts drivers, notorious for their horrible discourteous driving habits. You have Philly drivers, obnoxious and aggressive and never achieving anything by their aggression ( just like the Eagles) (that's another story altogether). You even have Memphis drivers, singularly the worst drivers I have ever encountered. Yes, I know how fast and aggressive and seemingly insane NJ/NY drivers appear to be, but in general, they have control of their vehicle and despite the fact that they are talking on the phone, eating breakfast or yelling at other drivers (and possibly all three at one time), they have the main goal of getting the car moving to the destination as fast as possible. Not so, these Georgians.

Georgia people don't ever appear to be in a rush for anything. A car will pull out onto the highway in front of you, immediately slow down to a snails pace, then continue to drive at many (many, many) miles per hour below the speed limit. BTW, the State of Georgia calls anything with pavement and lines painted on it a highway so you can easily get stuck behind a car doing minus-miles-per-hour ('cause it sure feel like you're going backwards) and not be able to pass. Flashing high-beams, honking horns, weaving to see around the front car ... none of that is working down here in Moderate Georgia.

Did I tell you the Georgia State motto?  "Wisdom. Justice. Moderation."  I believe that they don't need Wisdom or Justice ... Moderation, that's the calling card they need here.  Don't do anything too fast, let's not be too hasty there now, can't be rushing around here in Georgia. Just take your time and get in line behind some slow moving person ... don't necessarily have to be in a car to get stuck, either; store checkout lines, post office, car wash, anything that has a line will move s-l-o-w-l-y.  It's been my hardest adjustment so far. I compensate by leaving 2 hours early for anything with an appointment time.

And that's why the traffic in the greater Atlanta area is so horrible! Nobody can get on the good foot and step on the gas ... get off the cell phones, stop shoving food in your mouth, wake up and drive the car! Nice people, these Georgians, but slow as molasses ...

Another full-disclosure moment, here ... I had written a much longer, considerably-less-than-complimentary  section about Georgia, but Sheila reminded me that a fair percentage of residents in Georgia maintain weapons and also know how to skin a carcass. Sheila has been here a long time, and although not a Georgia native she is accepted (we were at a Christmas party on Saturday and I heard her use the phrase "fixin' to" several times ... as in "I hear you're fixin' to move up yonder" ... now that's posting some serious Southern credentials right there!) as if she was raised here and not in California. I guess she does look Southern (with some West Coast mixed in) ... here we are in semi-fancy wear for the party

Sheila & I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a great & happy New Year!

(that's Bella)

Friday, December 9, 2016

Memphis: Music & Bar-B-Que!!

Who knew that all of this goodness would be coming once the old Jersey guy got to Georgia? I mean, the pretty lady and beautiful home, sure, that I knew ... but all the rest of this great stuff? Next up on the list of "certainly very cool" is Memphis! That's BB Kings stage above, cool blues and some really great BBQ!

Sheila had an audit to conduct in Memphis and asked me to go with her ... duhhh ... that took about 1/2 second to say "yes". Sheila's sister Gina was gracious enough to watch Bella and Madison, again (she had just watched them while we were in Miramar Beach the previous week +) (we owe Gina, like, 20 dinners and a car wash) (if its a car wash, I'm taking it to the place I took Sheila's car ... see the blog dated October 18, 2016), so off to Memphis we went!

Now, we both had work to do; Sheila with her audit and me with AWT projects, but we made time to enjoy the town. It was kinda chilly/nippy, so walking too far was a bit of a drag. I had a bit more flexibility during the day so I took the time to visit some memorable music locations unique to Memphis:

The Gibson Guitar factory tour was really great. I was never a huge Gibson fan and always thought the guitars were somewhat overpriced, but having been through the actual factory and seeing the actual production process I can better understand why they cost what they do ... very little is done by CNC maching, with a large part of the work still hand-made.

The Gibson reception desk

Next up, dinner @ BB King's BBQ.  It was a quiet Monday night (somewhat) at BB King's restaurant on Beale Street. Sheila and I both had a great pulled pork plate that was really big and really delicious. The music was very good (that's Memphis Jones playing guitar in the pic up top, a pretty good historian as well as a blues guy).  We had a fun evening!

Tuesday was a work day for both Sheila and me, but I had an earlier end to my day and took the time to tour the Stax Recording Studio:
top: The great Duck Dunn's P-bass that was used on so many of those recordings. left,  the Stax studio with a 13' high ceiling; right, a sampling of some of the many Stax 45's and LP's on display.

After work we went to The Rendezvous Restaurant, a classic Memphis Rib house. Complete truth here, these are stock photos since we were too busy eating to take any pictures!

 Hard to find the entrance to The Rendezvous, the interior of the restaurant, and THOSE RIBS!

Another work day Wednesday, but I again ended earlier and had a chance to visit Sun Records, the other great Memphis institution where Elvis, Jerry Lee, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and so many others recorded all of the great stuff.

The studio was tiny, particularly when compared to the cavern @ Stax. I loved the Pepsi machine ...

And then, before we knew it, we were on our way home to Georgia. Short trip but well worth the time to go. And if you ever get the chance, the tours @ Gibson, Stax and Sun were all worth the cost (about $15 +/- at each location). I bought Sheila a cool jacket at Sun:

Word of caution: The food in Memphis is all outstanding, I don't know how those people aren't all 300+ pounds each. Not only is the BBQ just excellent everywhere, but there are these donut shops all over the place that make fattening, gooey, delicious donuts of all kinds and types. On a recommendation we went to a shop called Gibson's (no relation to the guitars) and bought 1/2 dozen of these amazing treats! And we found a cookie shop , The Whimsy Cookie (yup, just cookies) (Sheila was dying for a cookie on the way to Memphis) (their "gooey" cookies are great!) and bought a dozen.  Good thing Sheila is thin and I've lost a ton of weight because we'd be in big trouble if we were on a strict diet!

BTW, I love everything about Memphis ... but they are THE WORST drivers, ever. It's like an evil combination of Massachussetts, NYC and Florida drivers, but multiplied by a factor of bad x 10. Sweet people, but they cannot drive worth a damn ....

I have to say, my life doesn't suck at all ....

Thursday, December 1, 2016


I know, I know ... this was supposed to be the blog where I described my lack of construction skills after hacking a hole in the side of the house while putting in a dog door.  Well, suffice it to say that I butchered that project pretty darn good but we've recovered and Sheila has elected to keep me around a bit longer (but she has hidden all saws and other weapons of house destruction) (in fairness, it's not like I didn't pre-warn her) (full disclosure, I hid behind Madison through it all, using her as a cuteness shield)

But I just had to tell you about our Thanksgiving weekend vacation to Miramar Beach in Destin Florida (that's one of a billion beautiful sunsets in Destin, above). Sheila and her family do an annual pilgrimage to Destin every September but this year her daughter & family chose to also spend a month surrounding Thanksgiving at the beach (no, they don't call it "down the shore" like in Jersey) (it's the at beach, not down the shore). They can do that because the kids are home schooled and they work from a home-based business ... sweet deal when you can do it from the shore ... err, umm, beach.

First, I didn't think of it as a vacation, just thought I was spending a couple of days at the shore ... sorry, beach ... but I'll be damned if it didn't instantly start to feel like a vacation as soon as I got there. First thing after we put our suitcases into the bedroom of a gorgeous townhouse, Sheila and I were on the beach getting our picture taken by her grandson, Carter (quite a good photographer at the tender age of 12!!).  Here we are ...

Thanksgiving Day, James (Sheila's SIL) picked up a great (really, it was great!) full dinner from Cracker Barrel with turkey, ham and all of the usual stuff including cranberries and mac & cheese ... more than enough to feed 7 vacationing faces with leftovers a-plenty. We ate dinner on the balcony of this beautiful townhouse right on the beach in a balmy 74 degree wonderful day in Florida. Not to bore you to tears with family pics, but here we are ...  that's Shauna, James, Carter, Hudson, Audrey & Sheila ... BTW, check out my University of Georgia shirt (NOT Georgia State University, apparently some little joint that has no football clout), I'm blending in with the locals and fully expect to be speaking with a drawl pretty darn soon (assuming I can get my colleges straightened out; it was easy in Jersey ... Rutgers ...) ....

And wham ... I was on vacation! Relaxing, eating out, swimming (yup, swimming in November, definitely NOT the Jersey Shore) and generally doing nothing but relaxing. Of course, I didn't realize that I was on vacation until Sheila asked me "Are you enjoying your vacation?" ... Vacation??  I thought we were here for dinner! And that's the difference between Georgia and Jersey, these people know how to relax and really enjoy themselves even if it means a 6 hour drive for a Cracker Barrel turkey dinner on a beach in Florida with some old nut from New Jersey. Honestly, the long weekend couldn't have been any nicer in any way, except for maybe having Laura & Lord (my daughter and her sig other, for those not paying strict attention to this drivel I post every couple of weeks) join us. We're thinking maybe the next time we can get them to join us, that would be nice.

You ever wonder what it would be like to just start over again? Come on, admit it, I know you do think about it, or at least you have thought about it at some point ... just chuck it all to the side and start over, no messing around with the old junk, no worrying about the "what if's" or the "how about's" of your current crap storm of a life. Just let it go and start over? I know that a lot of you would like to do it, and I am doing it right now. And I have to say ... it feels good, really good. And I have to thank this pretty lady for playing a gigantic part in this revitalization ...